Eastern Sun, Winter Moon Summary
Eastern Sun, Winter Moon describes the origin of Paulsen's disappointment with adulthood and sense that his childhood slipped away too quickly. Although he confesses in the Forward that he resisted remembering the unpleasant events of his first seven years, writing about them was the only way to deal with the "wounds, scars, things that damage me." Today, when most adults remember World War II nostalgically as a challenging time that brought out the best, spiritually and morally, in American men and women, Paulsen recalls behaviors and attitudes usually hidden from children. He relates them matter-of-factly because, he argues, children deserve the truth.
Paulsen's story is a story of contrasts: between youthful expectations and adult realities, between a modern American city and a war-torn Asian land, between a desire for a stable home and the unexpected dislocation caused by war, between the bravery of soldiers and their unthinking contempt for Oriental foes and friends alike, between a mother's love and a woman's search for self-worth, between American occupation troops hardened by war and Filipino civilians ravaged by Japanese conquerors. Most importantly, though, Eastern Sun, Winter Moon is about the contrast between what happens externally to a boy and how he feels internally about the experiences. Although many events just happen to Gary, as they just happen to many children, he often reacts with a sense that he is somehow responsible, or a sense that he carries a burden of silence for adults' secrets, or a sense of helplessness that he cannot resist, undo, or direct the course of events.